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The London bomb blasts are shocking and upsetting to anybody who lives in the city and uses its public transport system. But while the human toll is becoming appallingly obvious, the economic effect will not endure as long.

Markets have a way of reacting to events like this in a way that is both cold-hearted and unpredictable. You thought oil prices would spike on the news? No, they dropped on the idea that terrorism in Britain’s capital city might reduce economic activity and demand for energy.

More intuitively, sterling fell and European stock markets were hit. But there was little longer-term logic to that either. If al-Qaeda is behind the attacks, we know that they could have occurred in other European cities, or in Asia or the US.

Of course, there are some businesses that are directly affected by terrorism. Tourists can be put off from travelling to foreign cities and staying in hotels, fearing danger either on the way or at their destination. We witnessed the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on airlines and the travel industry.

Conversely, stocks in security companies may rise because the business of protecting people from terrorism will continue to grow.

But none of this says much about how businesses and markets in London and Europe will fare overall. Gradually, it is becoming clear that these attacks are more comparable to the Madrid bombings than September 11: they have caused suffering and uncertainty but have not changed the world.

Some more sand could be thrown in the wheels of globalisation but international trade and commerce will not be halted.

Perhaps it is sad that we have grown world-weary about terrorism but it is also a sign of hope. Politicians talk at these moments of the need to carry on with normal life. Most businesses, no matter how shocked the individuals who manage and work for them are, will do so.

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john.gapper@ft.com

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